Hospital Safety: Communication is
By Heidi Mix, RN, MS
Research shows that when
hospitalized patients are more actively involved with their care, they tend to
get better results. Here are some steps that you, your family members and
friends can take to help make your hospital stay a safe and positive
Communication is the most important
aid to patient safety. This begins by ensuring that hospital caregivers have
accurate information about your medical history and your current condition,
current medications, and drug allergies. This can help prevent errors and lower
the risk of accidental injuries during your hospital stay.
Check your hospital wristband and
make sure that your name and allergies are accurate. Hospital staff members are
supposed to check your wristband each time they give you medicine, take a blood
sample, or perform a test or procedure. If someone neglects to check your
wristband, speak up and tell them your name and your allergies.
Questions are a good way to
exchange information with your caregivers. Ask questions whenever you are
unclear about anything or if you are uncertain about why something is being
done. When you actively participate this way during your hospitalization, you
are more aware of treatment choices and possible complications.
All hospital caregivers you
interact with should always introduce themselves to you and explain their roles
before they perform their duties. If someone does not do this, you should speak
up and ask who they are and what they are going to do.
Know the name of the physician who
is in change of your care during your hospital stay. This information is often
written on a white board in your room. If it is not, then request that it be
written so you have it available to you at all times.
To minimize the chance of
conflicting orders, have one doctor coordinate your treatment plan. Be actively
involved with this process and ask questions if you do not understand the
terminology being used.
the chance for medication errors
Make a list of all drugs you are
currently taking, carry it with you at all times in your purse or wallet, and
be sure to bring it with you to the hospital. This list should include
prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication, vitamins, and herbal remedies.
Review this list with your hospital
caregivers to make sure that there is clear understanding of the names of your
medications, the dose, and the times of day you take your medications when you
are at home. Be sure to tell your doctor and nurses if you have any allergies
or have had previous reactions to food, drugs, or latex. And if your doctor
prescribes new medications, ask for an explanation of what they are, what they
do, when they are given, and what their side effects are.
Appoint a companion to be with you
in the hospital. It can be useful to have a relative or friend on hand to help
you assert your needs and preferences, articulate your questions, and write
down the answers. This person can also advocate for you if a problem arises.
Finally, if English is not your
primary language, or if you are deaf or hearing impaired, please ask for an
interpreter. Interactive communication and clear understanding among patients,
families, and caregivers is critical to providing safe patient care.
Mix is chief patient safety officer at Cayuga Medical Center. She can be
reached at (607) 274-4436.